The new gallery is formed from two former galleries, the Pitt Rivers Archeological Collection and the Early Man gallery, which have been knocked through to form a single entity designed around the idea of ‘discovery’, according to Metaphor.
The gallery aims to tell the story of Salisbury and the surrounding area from prehistoric times to the Norman Conquest, with pieces on show including artefacts from Stonehenge and objects from the grave of the ‘Amesbury Archer’ – an early Bronze Age man discovered during excavation for a housing development in 2002.
The space will use timber flooring and glass reinforced concrete to create the effect of strata around the space, showing visitors the history of the discoveries made around the area.
Dmitri Martin, associate at Metaphor, says, ‘We’ve been working very closely with the museum, which has an amazing collection, so we started from the point of view of the content.
‘The story we needed to tell is reverse chronological, from Norman times to Palaeolithic, so in terms of the concept we have a long timeline running round the wall’.
The narrative is also told through a series of characters featured within the space, such as archeologist and ethnologist Pitt Rivers. These are used along with a specially-commissioned black and white photograph of Stonehenge and imagery showing the landscape of Salisbury plain.
Martin says, ‘There’s a band of GRC to waist height to represent the ground strata – visitors get those ideas easily. That’s the main concept, the idea of discovering things in the ground: we created the design for simplicity as it’s really an incredibly complicated collection’.
Metaphor was appointed to the Wessex Gallery project following a tender, having created the initial masterplan for the whole Salisbury Museum project.
The Stonehenge Visitor Centre, which is due to open next month, has been designed by architect Denton Corker Marshall.
According to the gallery, major construction work on the space will be complete by Christmas this year, and it is hoped the gallery will be complete within around seven months. The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.